vol. 46 | number. 38 | Friday 23 September 2022
by Tom Wood
Updated 7:31 am
Sam Wilcox, Metro Deputy Mayor for Policy and Innovation, addresses the Metro Sports Authority about the East Bank Stadium project on September 15 at Bridgestone Arena.
– Photography by Tom Wood | The Ledger
As Nashville leaders continue to debate what the East Bank along the Cumberland River might one day look like, the city’s sports leaders believe they have a clearer picture of what the future could hold if a new indoor stadium were built.
The proposed $2.2 billion stadium—whether vaulted or with a retractable roof—opens up the very real possibility that Nashville could host major sporting events previously thought unlikely, from the Super Bowl to College Football Playoff (perhaps even a National Championship game), From the NCAA Men’s Final Four to WWE’s WrestleMania.
As the mayor’s office continues negotiations with the Tennessee Titans’ property over whether to renovate the old Nissan Stadium or build a new indoor facility that can also host concerts and conferences, those responsible for bringing high-profile sporting events to the city are poised to launch if the visionary’s East Bank dream comes true. .
On September 2, college presidents announced that college football matches would expand from four teams to twelve by 2026, possibly as early as 2024 if details can be worked out.
If an enclosed stadium is being built—and that “if” is still too large—to anchor a proposed East Bank revitalization project, look to Nashville to bid aggressively for the biggest sporting events.
“The closed stadium will elevate this city to the highest possible level for the event. Butch Spyridon, CEO of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., who told the Ledger in May that Nashville is a “renovated or new stadium far from being able to host the (Super Bowl)” says, We’ll definitely be bidding on all opportunities, says Butch Spiridon.
Spyridon notes that Nashville’s reputation as a destination city would also make Nashville attractive to college officials if there was a closed stadium. While college football is an outdoor sport, basketball is not.
“There are about 10 cities with domed stadiums, and all of them have hosted at least one of the country’s most notable events,” Spyridon notes. “Our reputation for hosting major events is second to none; our convenient geographic location is second to none; and our hotels, restaurants, facilities and entertainment packages are second to none.
“I would be more shocked if we didn’t succeed (in those bids) than I would be surprised by the chance of a landslide success,” Spyridon adds.
Ohio Valley Conference Commissioner Beth DiBauchi and Scott Ramsay, CEO and president of the TransPerfect Music City Bowl, have also promoted Nashville’s reputation as an upscale destination city.
“Nashville is very respected as a host city,” says Diebauch, who was appointed to the NCAA Board of Governors in June. “We’ve been told we’ve done a great job hosting NCAA events in the past, whether it’s the Women’s Fourth Final, or the first and second round (matches) for the NCAA Championship (men’s).”
She cited the support of local universities, the Nashville Athletic Council, and strong civic leadership as the backbone for the realization of these events. “These events are well received as a city and our geographic location is somewhat of a city,” says Diebauch. “It’s…all of this serves us well.”
Ramsey, whose bowling game celebrates its 25th anniversary with a December 31 game at April Stadium between teams from the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten, says it’s too early to speculate whether Nashville could one day host a College Football Playoff game.
“But the stadium will definitely open up a lot of opportunities for us to catch up on the big events and I think (they) would be very interested in Nashville and I think we could host most of them all with great success,” Ramsey says.
Imagine UT Vols in a title game
With a new East Bank stadium still in the “what if” negotiation stage, let’s look at one potential future with the Tennessee Vols in the 2028 college football playoffs. Heck, let’s go all the way and have them play for the National Championship in Nashville.
Impossible, you say? Not since Josh Hepple took charge of the program last year. In Heupel’s first season, Tennessee rebounded from a miserable 3-7 record in 2020 to finish at 7-6 after losing 48-45 to Purdue in the Music City Bowl. UT started the 2022 season without a standings but quickly jumped to 11th in the AP poll and 12th in the AFCA Coaches poll in this week’s home game against Florida.
At SEC Media Days in Atlanta, Heupel spoke generally about what UT could look like, saying he’s “very excited about what’s going to happen here in the future as well.”
If you’re not up to date, here’s how the 12-team playoffs will likely work:
The top four teams will get to the first round while the teams ranked 4-8 will host the last four teams at the campus locations. After that, cities will bid to host the remaining seven matches…four quarter-finals, semi-finals and the national championship.
Doug Matthews, a former Vanderbilt player and assistant coach for UT who hosts several radio talk shows in Nashville, and Mark Dyer of Nashville, who has served as a college sports executive with both Host Communications and IMG as well as NASCAR, agree that Nashville will also be in the mix to host playoff games. in college once the final form is approved.
“The suggestion that’s been put out there that will likely pass around the college football playoffs is that there won’t be any potted sites that have automated mechanisms,” Matthews says. “You’re going to have to bid for those, and Nashville can definitely compete for that.
“There are certain requirements, like (hosting) the Super Bowl. There are certain requirements. You have to be able to fill as many seats as there are available. And the important thing of course is – the seats are big – but the important thing is to be able to handle the crowd. Well, Nashville can do That. So the Music City Bowl could definitely share itself.
“Tournaments are just playoff games, and the championship match is standalone,” Matthews continues. “So Nashville – and I’m sure they will – they can go to both games, the playoff games and then the championship game itself.”
There are more than 36,000 hotel/motel rooms available with 2,100 scheduled to open in 2022 and another 7,400 on the way, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. reports. It is expected that between 45,000 and 50,000 hotel rooms will be available in the Nashville area by the time a new stadium can open.
“So, for sure, Nashville will be able to be in the middle of[the bidding process],” Matthews says without a doubt.
“I think Nashville is in good shape for the future of what will happen in college sports. If the new dome stadium happens, you will see Nashville as a strong contender for College Football Playoffs and in the Final Four Mix,” says Dyer, who launched his ticket operations company Taymar Sales U three years ago. .
“They have a good sporting infrastructure because they played (Music City). Again, downtown transformed. And so, all the ingredients are in Nashville to be a player in both the Final Four and College Football Playoffs, including hosting the national championship game. They will get The Super Bowl is in this new building as well, I’m sure,” Dyer adds.
Matthews says Nashville has another important ingredient in the recipe for attracting major college sporting events, one 6 miles east of downtown and with the initials that are sometimes the city’s unofficial name: BNA.
“One of the things that really helps them is (Nashville) International,” he says. “People can get in and out of here with real ease. So for sure, if the city chose to – and I strongly believe they would – they could certainly[host a national championship].”
Dyer compares the proposed Nashville facility to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, a multi-purpose facility with a retractable roof. Indianapolis has hosted the Final four eight times and will do so again in 2026.
“(Nashville) is a very attractive city,” Dyer says. “You have a great downtown hotel density which makes for a good comparison to Indianapolis, which is a great place. It’s a little cold out there at the College Football Playoffs, but the great thing about Indianapolis for those in the sports industry in the Final Fours, the weather is usually a little better .
“Once you’re out of your Uber at a downtown hotel, unless you go somewhere a little outside the downtown area, you’ll never have to get in a car again until you’re back at the airport.
“And I think Nashville has the same dynamic as your outlook on the road. Of course, I think Nashville is going to have a Major League Baseball team on the road. I don’t think there’s any question about that.”
“I don’t know when. But if you look at where the city or cities are going and the population and how young Nashville is, it has an amazing future along the way.”
Matthews says Indianapolis would be a player to host college football games along with cities like Atlanta, Miami and Dallas.
“But Nashville can stay with all of those,” he says. “It will come down to the amount of money they are willing to pay.”
And how the leaders of major cities are ready to dream.